LAHORE The provincial agriculture minister and the representatives of the farmer bodies have blamed the federal government for the fertilizer shortage in the country, saying that all agriculture-related matters including fertilizer import, pesticides manufacturing and provision of electricity and diesel for tubewells, are dealt and controlled by the central govt. The speakers including provincial agriculture minister Ahmed Ali Olakh, Ibrahim Mughal, Rabia Sultan and Akhtar Farooq Mayo, said that the Punjab farmers are badly hit by the shortage of fertilizer, which has erupted due to the provincial and central governments conflict. The speakers at, The Nation Forum held at Aiwan-e-Waqt here on Wednesday, said that Punjab requirement was around 1250,000 tons urea but the province was given only 900,000 tons urea. They urged the govt to import the urea, besides ensuring smooth supply of gas to fertilizer units in the country to bridge the supply-demand huge gap. They said that currently 8 million acres of land is under cotton cultivation, 6 million acre of land is under rice cultivation while 2.2 million acre of land is under sugarcane cultivation which amount to 70 percent of the total Pakistan export. The speakers said that the surge in fertilizers and DAP rates is actually a conspiracy of the fertilizers companies against the national export. They said pesticide companies are befooling the farmers and stressed need for taking stern action against them. They rejected the withholding tax on agri produce, urging the government to mention weight and price on urea sacks. They said around 200 million bags are sold annually in the country but neither the price nor the weight is mentioned on any sack of DAP or urea. They demanded the government to direct all public sector banks to issue agri loans on soft terms for the enhancement of agri production in the province. They demanded of the government to review its agriculture policy through comprehensive debate and consultation with the stakeholders to ensure the food security in the larger interests of the progress and prosperity of the country. They said that once again fertilizer companies increased urea prices by about Rs125 to Rs1,325 per 50 kg bag. This is the fourth price increase in last seven months. In, January 2011 Rs190/bag increase was announced due to gas curtailment, later on after the imposition of GST the impact of Rs135/bag was passed on to the farmers. And in April as a result of lower gas supplies from Qadirpur gas and other major fields, Engro jacked up the price of bag by Rs64. They said that fertilizers plants have also stopped production due to unavailability of gas. As per their analysis, gas supply cut for a month would result in a production loss of 91,000 tons. The speakers told the participants that at the end of March, following the imposition of General Sales Tax on agriculture inputs the DAP prices have jumped by Rs779 to Rs 4,059 per bag while the rates of urea have skyrocketed by Rs110 to Rs1,150 per bag. To put the urea price in regional context, India provides it to its farmers at mere Rs434 per bag. By those calculations, the Pakistani farmers are paying Rs72 billion extra to urea manufacturers, a crippling blow to local agriculture. The federal government provides Rs70 billion subsidy to the manufacturers on the gas head alone, speakers said. Out of these Rs70 billion, the manufacturers are returning only Rs19 billion to farmers, they added.